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Fright night: How to celebrate Halloween in Italy

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Fright night: How to celebrate Halloween in Italy
Photo: artshock/depositphotos
13:57 CET+01:00
If you want to scare yourself silly in Italy this week, here's how and where to do it.

Halloween might not seem like the most traditionally Italian celebration ever. After all, the Catholic country celebrates All Souls Day on November 2.

But the festival of the dead on October 31, with Celtic roots, was celebrated in parts of Italy long ago.

In 1000 A.D. the Catholic Church created All Souls’ Day on November 2 in an attempt to replace the popular Celtic festival with a similar, church-approved tradition. Although the date and name was changed, plenty of old traditions stuck.

Pumpkin carving is just as popular here in Italy. Photo: depositphotos.

In fact, there are spooky goings-on around the country for several days at this time of year. Here are some suggestions for frighteningly fun (or maybe just frightening) things to do around Italy this week.

Local festivals

What could be spookier than visiting the ‘town of witches’ on Halloween night? The small town of Triora in Liguria is home to one of Italy’s most famous Halloween celebrations.

Triora’s history is legitimately scary. The town was the site of a series of horrific witch trials held between 1587-1589 in which 200 local women were held responsible for plagues, acid rain, livestock killings and even cannibalism.

Today the town holds various spooky events around this time of year; there’s the main Halloween celebration, during which the town is lit by hundreds of pumpkins and everyone dresses in costume, as well as a film festival, ghost tours (in Italian only) and more.

READ ALSO: Five scary Italian horror movies you need to watch

Another seriously spooky spot is Borgo a Mozzano in the province of Lucca, Tuscany. Now in its 24th edition, the town’s famous Halloween event is held from October 28-31 every year in the streets of the old town.

Inspired by local legends and mysteries, it includes a procession that tells the tale of legendary noblewoman Lucida Mansi, said to have exchanged her soul with the devil for 30 years of beauty. Lucida and the devil pass through town in a procession accompanied by demons and fire-eaters.

Meanwhile in Le Marche, the town of Corinaldo has been holding the popular Festa delle Streghe (Festival of the witches) for more than 20 years. The 14th-century walled town takes on a surreal theme-park atmosphere with Halloween decorations, live music, a costume competition and spooky fairground rides. It’s on this year from 27-31 October.

Scary stories

If you like a classic horror story, you can indulge yourself with Frankenreads, an international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in several Italian cities this month.

In Florence, The British Institute Library will be holding a public reading from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on October 31st at 16:00.

In Rome, literature fans can join a lecture on October 31st by poet and writer Professor Fiona Sampson, the author of ‘In Search of Mary Shelley’, at the John Cabot University campus on Via della Lungara. It’s free and open to the public but advance registration is needed.

Terrifying tours

If you’d prefer to listen to scary tales with a hint of history, while walking around some of Italy’s most famous sights, you can do that on numerous spookily-themed city tours.

In Florence, one special Halloween tour takes visitors to locations mentioned in Dan Brown’s Inferno and tells spooky stories of old Florence from the time of Dante.

In Rome, there are several options for those who want to see a darker side of the Eternal City.

One tour takes you to the Colosseum at night, to hear the tales of the restless spirits that apparently haunt it - not surprising really, given that over 500,000 people were killed within its walls.

The Bones and Catacombs tour meanwhile takes you deep underground to see the famous Roman catacombs, former burial grounds that date from the second to the fifth century, and hear the many ghost stories associated with the place. It also visits the frankly terrifying Crypt of the Capuchin friars.

The abandoned mental asylum in Volterra. Photo: Arianna Flacco

Dark tourism

If you fancy a day trip, you could visit one of Italy’s creepiest places – from Volterra's abandoned mental asylum to Mussolini’s air raid shelter, there’s something horrible for everyone.

And there are numerous macabre exhibits on show around Italy – not only at Halloween - from the mummies (yes, real ones!) at the Church of the Dead in the Le Marche town of Urbania, to Galileo’s rotten, severed middle finger, kept on display for reasons we don’t quite understand at the Florence Museum of Science.

 

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